The Moncton Fire Department is drafting a policy formalizing a program to keep an eye on derelict buildings following the death of a homeless man in a fire last week.

A 55-year-old man died in the fire on Gordon Street on Thursday. The building had been boarded up, but the man found his way into it to sleep.

Gordon St fire

A homeless man died in a fire in this vacant building on Gordon Street in downtown Moncton on Thursday. (Marc Genuist/ CBC)

Fire Chief Eric Arsenault says more people will be looking to escape the cold as temperatures fall and that will make it harder to keep trespassers out of vacant buildings.

"We're starting to notice that the numbers of abandoned buildings are increasing in our city," said Arsenault. "It's very noticeable to the public when they drive by, I mean when you see plywood on doors and windows well that's a pretty tell-tale sign."

Arsenault says it is difficult to tell from the street if trespassers have made their way into vacant buildings, so the fire department is asking the public to help keep track of problems.

He says firefighters are already checking up on derelict properties.

"When we notice that people have pried [open] or made entrance into a building, we'll secure it again," he said.

The fire chief is working to formalize the visits and establish a weekly schedule to check vacant buildings. He hopes to have it complete within two weeks.

Arsenault said the derelict building program has been in development for about a month, but last week's death has added a new sense of urgency.

"We've been looking for the last month at establishing a policy which would see firefighters in our own response territory, at least once a week go by,  walk around the building, making sure that it's still secured — that they're not seeing any evidence of people occupying the building illegally."